Staying Focused: apps and websites to help you concentrate

Struggle to stop procrastinating? Find yourself constantly scrolling through Twitter when you should really be working? If you want to get focused and keep concentrating, blogger Ellie has put together a list of the best websites and apps for just that.

What’s being a student if you don’t procrastinate every now and again? Or most of the time? Or always? Now that I’m working at home, this is a serious problem for me, but I’m coming to realise that one minute of work followed by five minutes of Twitter scrolling is not sustainable. So, apart from telling myself to get a grip and do some work, I’ve found a host of apps, websites, and nifty tricks that helped me massively, and hopefully can help you too.

Put your phone away!

Pretty simple to start: put your phone in a separate room from the one you’re working in, and only go on it during your breaks. There’s not really much else to it, but if you really struggle with discipline, try putting it on Do Not Disturb, or check out the Flora app below.

Mytomatoes.com

This uses the Pomodoro Technique, originally developed by Francesco Cirillo. Essentially it is 25 minutes of work, followed by 5 minutes of rest, so called because Cirillo originally used his tomato cooking timer from his kitchen to track the minutes. Mytomatoes.com follows this structure, and is handy because at the end of the working period you can write a little note of what you did. It logs this, and so over time you can see all the tomatoes you’ve done, which is super helpful for motivation and tracking your achievements. What I really love about this technique is that, following my serious problem with social-media scrolling, I can say to myself “it’s only 25 minutes! Surely you can stay off your phone and do some work for 25 minutes!” It feels achievable. 

Write Here Write Now If you love the Pomodoro Technique, this one is a good one for you. Every Tuesday and Friday, the library hosts a Write Here Write Now writing session, currently on Microsoft Teams. It follows the same timings, but has the nice opportunity for chats in between. Sometimes, that little bit of company really helps you get on with things. If you can’t make the sessions, or really like the idea of virtual working with others, why not set up a Teams/Zoom/Skype working session with friends or colleagues? You’ll get lots of work done, and that little bit of background noise can be really comforting and make you feel like you’re not completely alone.

Sounds of the Bodleian

This is a personal favourite of mine. If you’re like me, someone who struggles working in complete silence but gets too distracted by the radio, then Sounds of the Bodleian is perfect. It’s recordings from inside various Oxford libraries, including the beautiful Radcliffe Camera, which provide some great natural-academic background noise. I personally find the sound of a printer, a chair moving, and the general hustle and bustle of a library environment really great for helping me get in the zone.

Noisli

If you like the idea of some background noise, but a library isn’t the soundtrack for you, then Noisli may be a better option. Here there are all sorts of sounds and noises, from rain, wind, fire crackling, to a coffee shop, that you can use for a soundtrack to your work. An account is free, but if you really find it works for you, then there are options to upgrade for an even bigger selection.

Flora

There are several apps like Flora, which keep you off your phone and concentrating for periods of time (including the 25 minute Pomodoro, or a 50 minute option). Plant a tree and start to grow it, but beware, click off the app to head to social media, or something you shouldn’t be doing during work, and the poor tree dies! This lovely bit of gamification is really useful for keeping you off your phone, and as an added bonus, you have the chance to convert your virtual trees into real ones. Working hard and saving the planet, all at the same time.

Movie Soundtracks

Another great way to enjoy music but not get hooked up on distracting lyrics, is to listen to movie or game soundtracks. Designed to be unnoticeable at times, or to support concentration (for the latter) these are another great option to listen to. I’d advise not listening to soundtracks of films you know too well, otherwise you’ll likely end up daydreaming the plot in your head. If you need inspiration, check out the list of the top 50 soundtracks here.

What do you find useful for keeping you on track during work? Tweet us at @ResearchEx, email us at libraryblogs@warwick.ac.uk, or leave a comment below.

by Ellie

Ellie King is a Second Year PhD student in Warwick Manufacturing Group. She has been at Warwick since 2014 in the History department, and has recently moved faculties to research applying user experience to the museum sector. Ellie is partnered with the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. You can connect with her on LinkedIn here, or follow her on Twitter @ellietheking

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